Ten Tastes for 2011

As much as a massive entrée like homemade spaghetti and meatballs might satisfy hunger or evoke a delicious food memory, a big plate can be daunting. And the tenth bite is never as good as the first.

So these days, I like to graze through dinner, sampling plates and ordering indulgences to get a sense of how a chef cooks or how he sources ingredients. When something from the kitchen or bar elicits curiosity as well as admiration because it's so delicious, that's what makes a plate memorable for me.  After the jump, ten noteworthy bites I've had since August.

10. Tongue at Kapow! Noodle Bar
The grilled beef tongue here is presented as thin, meaty petals on a square white

plate, garnished with scallions, and served with a mustard momiji oroshi, a

condiment that weds daikon and hot chili peppers. It's a simple, beautiful dish.

9. Conch soup at Sea
The soup is just this: mirepoix, San

Marzano tomatoes, white wine, sherry, and conch in a broth infused with

poblano, cubanelle peppers, tumeric, and cumin. I coveted it so much that I went back the same week for seconds.

8. Kusshi oysters at 3030 Ocean
Served in a saltwater elixir, these were the freshest oysters I've had since I've moved here.

7. Ceviche at Grateful Palate
Peruvian scallop ceviche with oranges, a hint of heat, sweet

potato, and micro arugula was among the most refreshing I've had.

6. Toro at Gaysha
The pink, veined fish marbled with fat was like softening butter. And wow,

was it succulent and rich.

5. Barbacoa taco at El Jefe Luchador
Inside a barbacoa taco, braised beef brisket packs heat with guajillo

chilies. A ripe tomato and onion medley lend sweet and sharp crunch. Tart

lime, a handful of cilantro, and a liberal sprinkle of queso blanco

round it out. It's delicious.

4. Pork bao at Maxin Oriental Bakery
A flaky, buttery bun stuffed with savory pork served as a delicious lunch that I find myself craving since my first visit.

3. Late-night burger at Rok:Brgr
Burgers from this place with a fried egg on top are among the best around. Late night after a few drinks, they're even better.

2. Florida fish dip at Tryst
I've been eating this at restaurants from here to West Palm and have enjoyed the Tryst rendition most of all. 

1. Sweet potato pie at 1500 Degrees at Eden Roc
I rarely crave desserts, yet this one made me swoon

I'm leaving off plenty of delicious dishes: epics at Cafe Boulud and Cafe Sharaku, fly-bys at Pubbelly, and anything with bacon. I'm also disappointed that very few vegetable dishes outside my home were memorable. I hope that changes for 2012. Or I need to make it over to Woodlands in the new year.

Have a favorite dish from this year? Leave it in the comments.

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Food Critic
Contact: Melissa McCart